On this week’s edition of “Champagne and J.D.,” we sat down with one of my favorite people in the sport. Alicia Wincze Hughes works for the NTRA, and before that, she was one of the top turf writers in the country for the Lexington Herald Leader. We chatted about last weekend’s results of note and previewed several races coming up on the Whitney Day program, and it was great getting a chance to sit down and talk shop with her.
J.D. Fox and I are proud of what we’re building with this show, and we’ve got a number of really good guests coming up this summer. Search for “Champagne and J.D.” on YouTube, and if you like what you see, hit the “subscribe” button so you don’t miss any of our weekly updates!
FRIDAY’S RESULTS: My Pick Four ventures were both blown up in the first legs of their respective sequences. After scratches, I dropped $45.
SATURDAY’S PLAY: For the first time this meet, we’ve got a deadline conflict. I’d love to play #9 CARIBA in the 12th here, but that could go off as the sun is setting. I’m never going to be the guy to hold up print production, so I’ll focus my attention on races earlier in the program. I’ll play $4 doubles starting in the opener using #1 OLYMPIAD/#1A OUTLIER, #4 WINDCRACKER, and #8 TEAM MERCHANTS, and finishing in the second with #1 FOG OF WAR and #4 EN WYE CEE.
TOTAL WAGERED: $24.
Best Bet: Cariba, Race 12
Longshot: Mystery Bank, Race 8
GRANDVIEW ENTRY: Either part of the entry could win this wide-open lid-lifter. #1 OLYMPIAD hammered for $700,000 and sports back-to-back bullets for Bill Mott, while #1A OUTLIER also sold for a considerable sum despite a modest pedigree and boasts a strong five-furlong gate work; #4 WINDCRACKER: Ran a good third in his debut at Churchill and could kick off a big day for trainer Tom Amoss, who saddles Allen Jerkens favorite No Parole. He showed some late interest that day, and it helps that the runner-up came right back to win; #8 TEAM MERCHANTS: Debuts for Doug O’Neill, who developed a fine first-out reputation in California. The son of Derby winner Nyquist has several big works on his tab, including a half-mile bullet from the gate over this surface last week.
Fog of War
En Wye Cee
#1 FOG OF WAR: Returns off the bench for Chad Brown and will be tough to beat if he’s right. He won a Grade 1 as a 2-year-old back in 2018, and the recent bullet work indicates he may be back to his old self; #4 EN WYE CEE: Hasn’t been seen since finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Discovery in November, but boasts a top-notch turf pedigree and could love the lawn. He’ll likely get plenty of pace to rate off of, and we may get some value here, which isn’t always the case with Todd Pletcher trainees; #3 DREAM FRIEND: Set the pace before tiring in the Grade 3 Poker and is being dropped back down in class. He hasn’t won in a while, but of the two likely pace-setters, I prefer him to the enigmatic #5 HIDDEN SCROLL.
K. K. Ichikawa
#5 K. K. ICHIKAWA: Ran well when third against similar-level foes in his debut. Going long at first asking isn’t an easy thing to do, but this gelding handled it well and could step forward with some experience under his belt; #1 ALLIED INVASION: Debuts for Christophe Clement and has been working steadily ahead of his unveiling. Joel Rosario sees fit to ride, and few trainer/jockey combinations have been better at this meet; #9 REGAL SPEAKER: Showed some late interest when fourth in his debut at Delaware Park. Javier Castellano getting on for a high-percentage barn is a plus, but I’m skeptical about the field he ran against in his debut, and I can’t endorse him at his likely short price.
Dreams of Tomorrow
#5 IMA PHAROAH: Has run second in all four outings to date, and this represents a “now or never” spot for him. It certainly seems like he’ll be on or near the lead here, and Saratoga’s main track has played very kindly to horses with that running style; #3 DREAMS OF TOMORROW: Came up a neck short last time out downstate and has a significant chance to graduate at third asking. He beat the third-place finisher by seven lengths that day, and that runner has since come back to win; #4 FUTURO: Debuts for Bill Mott after a series of strong drills at Belmont. Seven furlongs isn’t the easiest route for a first-time starter, but if the workouts are any indication, there’s some talent here.
Point of Honor
#3 MIDNIGHT BISOU: Looms large in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign as one of the best older horses in training regardless of gender. Her comeback race at Churchill was exceptional, and if she’s anywhere close to her usual self, she should blast this group; #4 VEXATIOUS: Made Monomoy Girl work a bit in the Grade 2 Ruffian, and that’s not an easy task. She was nearly nine lengths clear of her closest pursuer, and while she hasn’t won in a while, I think she’s a must-use in vertical exotics; #6 POINT OF HONOR: Has run well in many big spots, including when she finished second in last year’s Grade 1 Alabama over this track. The problem is, she hasn’t won since May of last year, and she may be left with a lot to do late.
#6 STAGE LEFT: Gets a reluctant top pick in a race where I wish I didn’t have to give one. He steps back up in class after a nice win downstate, could improve second off of a long layoff, and won at this route last summer; #5 FOOLISH GHOST: Looks like the controlling speed in this race and keeps Irad Ortiz, Jr., despite the trainer switch. He looks like the controlling speed, and if the main track keeps penalizing closers, he could have a say at a price; #2 MISTER WINSTON: Gave Creed a fight last time out at Belmont when second beaten just over a length by that classy rival. This distance might suit him, but I think he’ll be left with a lot to do, and at his likely price in a wide-open event, that doesn’t make him feel like a smart play.
King of Miami
Sol Del Sur
#8 MODERN SCIENCE: Got stuck rating well behind a slow early pace in his debut, but he showed plenty of potential rallying for third. That barn’s first-time starters don’t often win, and the presence of Joel Rosario may mean this son of all-world sire Galileo has more in the tank; #7 KING OF MIAMI: Ran pretty well when second in his off-the-turf debut and gets the surface he likely wants here. American Pharoah’s offspring seem to love the lawn, and this one’s 351 turf Tomlinson rating is tied for the highest such number in the field; #5 SOL DEL SUR: Is by Medaglia d’Oro and out of a War Front mare, which gives him turf pedigree on both sides. The recent slow works hint that he wants to go as long as possible, and he intrigues me at a price for Bill Mott.
#5 MYSTERY BANK: Sure seems like the lone speed in this turf marathon, which could help considerably given the maiden condition. Orlando Noda has hit pay dirt several times at the meet already, and if this one gets left alone up front early, look out; #7 AMANO: Closed to be third last time out at Belmont and will likely be favored here for Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz. It wouldn’t shock me if he won, but I can’t shake the feeling he may need more pace than he’ll get; #1 HOLY EMPEROR: Was a good second against slightly weaker going a mile at Belmont. He’s bred to want to go long on the grass, and while he doesn’t strike me as a front-runner, he could sit close beneath aggressive gate rider Luis Saez.
Code of Honor
By My Standards
#5 TOM’S D’ETAT: Comes in after winning four races in a row, including the Grade 2 Stephen Foster at Churchill. He’s emerged as a force as a 7-year-old, and his combination of talent and versatility make him a deserving favorite in the Grade 1 Whitney; #3 CODE OF HONOR: Ran better than it may look on paper when third in the Grade 1 Met Mile downstate. He was wide that day and had to chase Vekoma, which isn’t easy to do. This two-turn trip should be right up his alley, and he gets it returning to the scene of his score in the Grade 1 Travers last year; #1 BY MY STANDARDS: Was a distant second behind Tom’s d’Etat in the Foster but won a pair of Grade 2 events before that. Jose Ortiz gets the mount here, and his usual race gives him a shot against a field light on numbers but heavy on talent.
#6 NO PAROLE: Simply put, this Louisiana-bred looks like a freak. He’s 4-for-4 in races around one turn, and over a track that’s played very kindly to speed, I think he’ll be a handful. The recent bullet drill over this surface helps, too; #2 EIGHT RINGS: Has been training well for Bob Baffert in California, and he’s not a trainer who ships for the frequent-flyer miles. His effort in Arkansas last time out was a dud, but he showed enough promise as a 2-year-old to make me think he’s sitting on a big effort; #8 THREE TECHNIQUE: Seems like the best-meant closer in the bunch and one that may benefit if the speedballs burn out turning for home. He simply went too long in the Grade 2 Rebel last time out, and he’s 2-for-2 at today’s seven-furlong distance.
#2 CROSS BORDER: Jogged against overmatched state-breds here last week and should have plenty in reserve for the Grade 2 Bowling Green. He’s gotten this distance before and should have a favorable trip on or near a pretty slow early pace; #4 DOT MATRIX: Is at his best on or near the front going a long distance, and he should get that sort of trip here. He just missed two back at this distance at Belmont, but Joel Rosario climbs back aboard and should have him in a good spot; #7 PILLAR MOUNTAIN: Merits a look underneath at a big price. He likes this turf course and almost certainly needed the race last time out, which doubled as his first effort since October. Pletcher and Velazquez don’t often provide this kind of value.
#9 CARIBA: Responded to the cutback in distance with a nice win downstate. Runner-up Peaceful won here impressively earlier in the meet, and the Clement barn has continued to send out well-meant horses after a scorching start; #2 I’LLHANDALTHECASH: Won here last summer and exits a win in a listed stakes race at Belmont. She was up close to a pretty moderate pace that day, but she’s also shown an ability to sit back and rally, which could prove helpful; #7 DALIKA: Was second behind my runner-up last time out and looms the danger if the race falls apart late. She won at this distance two back at Churchill, and the recent bullet hints she could be well-meant once again.